Choosing the best toys for your kids

By Lynn Richardson
Info Guru,

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Close up of colorful wooden blocks
Let toy expert Dr. Auerbach help you select the right toys for your children
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Toy ads are everywhere.

From the commercials that punctuate kids' shows, to full page ads in every children's and parenting magazine or shows and movies that seems to be written just to sell the newest must-have plaything, toy advertising is big business. Each toy promises endless hours of fun, a better summer or Christmas or birthday, Many hold out the lure of a higher IQ for all who buy.

Armed with the ads and our children's requests, buying the right toy seems easy - until you walk into the toy store and face the stacks of dolls and action figures, and the shelves filled with countless games, construction toys, stuffed animals and art sets. So how do you choose?

Dr. Toy, the popular sobriquet for Dr. Steveanne Auerbach, has the answers on her website, Not yet another site selling the "perfect" toy, Dr. Auerbach is an expert on toys and child play and her site is the one resource every parent and grandparent needs when it's time to choose the perfect birthday or holiday gift.

So what does Dr. Toy say about choosing the right toy? Her site lists 14 factors any toy buyer should keep in mind before heading to the check-out, including:
  • Is the toy safe? Sometimes this is a question of age – what's safe for a 10 year old might be hazardous for a toddler, so keep in mind the age of the child, and heed any age warnings on the packaging. Check for durability, sharp parts, or even toxic paints – often a problem with imports.

  • Will the toy be fun? Think about the child for whom you're buying Is this something they'll enjoy for more than a few minutes? Can the child use their imagination and creativity when they play with this toy? Does the child have the skills necessary to play with the toy? For example. a toy that requires reading or mechanical ability may be more frustrating than fun to a child who hasn't yet developed those abilities.

  • What values does the toy convey? Does it encourage cooperative play? Does it avoid reinforcing ethnic, religious or gender stereotypes, encouraging violence, or promoting other negative behaviors? Does it fit well with your family's values and beliefs?

    Educational value, usability, maintenance, ease of use, level of interest, cost, and even reliable packaging are also factors Auerbach suggests toy buyers should consider. Despite these guidelines, Dr. Toy warns against becoming overly rigid in toy selections, and suggests that parents occasionally just buy a toy for no other reason than because the child really wants it. A toy which seems to be of little value to a parent can be sometimes be the very plaything a child will treasure.

    In addition to evaluating the new products from the commercial toy markets, Dr Auerbach encourages parents not to forget the value of homemade play. Bowls, cups, spoons and water make great toys, especially if parents play with the children. " Children need to read books, listen to music, play with traditional toys, and so on," she said in an interview with Family PC magazine in 1999. "Also, I don't want to see a doll speaking for a child, instead of a child making up the language."

    You might also want to check out what the top toys for 2006 were to get an idea as to what parents and other gift buyers chose for the children in thier lives.

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